If publishers serve misleading native ads, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could soon begin to hold them responsible.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning publishers to clearly label native ads they serve on their properties.

As native content increasingly becomes the best way to reach consumsers, there are many publishers who don't fully disclose the sponsored content they create for their business partners, both in print, online and in video. And while dishonest advertising is nothing new, the FTC is hoping to curb deceitful publishing online, according to Mary Engle, associate director for advertising practices at the FTC.

"Even though native advertising is a new term, it's an old concept that the Commission has been concerned about for decades," Engle said at the Clean Ads I/O conference last week. "For us, the concern with native advertising is whether consumers can recognize what they are seeing is an advertisement or not."  

Engle also suggested that newfound partnerships between publishers and agencies. could be responsible for the blurred lines between advertising and journalism. "Publishers are creating the ads and acting more like ad agencies," Engle said. "And ad agencies traditionally have some responsibilities for deceptive advertising."

Forms of native advertising vary. Some place paid links on their pages. Twitter sells promoted tweets in its news feed. Google presents paid search with a yellow "Ad" sign in its search results. The New York Times serves native ads with "paid posts by." And BuzzFeed discloses sponsored content with "promoted by," as shown below.


In order to make more publishers stay honest, the FTC has provided a number of workshops on native advertising disclosure. However, the organization has not yet issued a guideline specifically for this subject.

Other watchdog groups are also calling for greater transparency, such as the industry (Read more...) organization the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), which recently released its Native Advertising Playbook, advocating the importance of disclosure for paid ad formats.

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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